Monday, January 28, 2008

Death's Sweet Song by Clifton Adams

Death's Sweet Song by Clifton Adams
Gold Medal 483, Copyright 1955

Talk about a guy who gets caught up in it.

One the the best to come out of Gold Medal in the 50s. Clifton Adams mainly wrote Western novels, but he authored a classic crime fiction story here.

Joe Hooper owns a fled-bag motel in Oklahoma and is about to go under. Along pulls up Karl Sheldon, with his beautiful young wife Paula. Hooper is desperate for extra cash and Shelden, with sexy Paula's help, wheels him into a payroll robbery. Things go wrong, deadly wrong....

This may be the best crime fiction novel that Gold Medal published in the 50s. It's a story of how things can spiral out of control once you take that step-and you can't go back. Joe Hooper is a character the reader cares for, even as he goes bad. You feel the weight and burden he carries, which slowly drags him deeper and deeper until the end; where he decides his own fate. Adams builds on the relationship between Hopper and his father
in the story. Hooper struggles knowing he is disappointing his father through his actions and this compounds his inner torment. Hooper sweats it out throughout the novel and we are right there with him.

Strong characters, nicely paced and well told. Definitely noir-fiction. Robbery-Cheating-Murder-This one slams into you.

"The one word that kept hitting me was 'murder.' To me it didn't have the usual meaning. It was like thinking of cancer or TB. You get yourself branded with it and it kills you, only with murder you die in the electric chair instead of in the bed."

I read many Clifton Adams westerns from the 50s-70s, which I categorize as average. A couple were very good. (Gold Medal's "Desperado" and "The Most Dangerous Profession") But, the crime fiction was excellent and it's a shame he didn't write more. Another fine novel is Gold Medal's "Whom Gods Destroy" (1953)-the only other crime novel he wrote as Clifton Adams. He wrote "The Very Wicked"(1960) using the name Nick Hudson, and a couple of noir books as Jonathan Gant.
I guess he just loved the Westerns.



6 comments:

John Hocking said...

Dude, not only do I not have that book, I don't think I've ever even heard of it. And you say it's one of the best crime novels of the 1950s?
Now that's the kind of recommendation I can sink my fangs into.
Geez, this blog just gets better.

John

August West said...

Gold Medal never reprinted it in a later edition, which is a shame. I don't know if it's rare, but it seems you can get anything now via the web. Since this was published only in 1955, it would be nice to see it picked up again by one of those newer noir publishing companies. (like Hard Case Crime for example)

Anyway like I said, it's one of the best in my opinion and it seems I read it every couple of years.

Juri said...

It seems there are hundreds of books publishers like Hard Case, Stark House, Gryphon etc. could reprint. While it's awesome, it's also a burden: just another book I know I won't have time to read.

Anonymous said...

Death's Sweet Song was enjoyable to read. I have a copy in decent condition for which I paid only $5.00. At the moment, abeBooks.com shows only 2 copies in the whole world.

You can download the book from Munseys.

RonKo said...

Thanks for your recommendation. I just finished DEATH'S SWEET SONG and it ranks up there with BLACK WINGS HAS MY ANGEL. I just read THE DESPERADO and will read more Adams when I get a chance.

Anonymous said...

I read this book and it's good pulp. I'd love to know why he tries to catch his father's would-be killer in a car when a phone call of warning to him would be quicker.